19 July 2013

The Thousand Mile Challenge

"A thousand mile journey begins with a single step". (Tao Te Ching, 604 B.C.) The intent of this statement seems fairly clear. Simply stated, no matter how large the task, no matter how far, how big, how insurmountable something seems, it always starts with the first step. When something seems impossible, insurmountable or undoable, we can make a decision to embark, concentrate on the present, and take the first step. By breaking challenges in tiny doable tasks, change is possible. The ultimate challenge is in making the decision to take that first step. 

The challenge to becoming a “Changemaker” is largely an inside job.  Our “big assumptions” about ourselves and others condition us to avoid vulnerable situations and what we may view as insurmountable challenges.  We therefore proceed defensively, never aware of the underlying fears that keep us from committing fully to action. There are, however, ways to become more mindful of these unconscious, hard-wired drivers of behavior.  And with knowledge comes power.

What are the major underlying roadblocks to action?  I’ll share with you my personal roadblocks (Feeling vulnerability here).  Two major competing commitments that I’m feeling as I proceed forward with the 12 Steps to Green Program (new working title) are:

  • A personal commitment to being well-prepared for my challenges. I am a self-starter and am also very self-reliant.  I can also be pretty tough on myself when I do not meet my own expectations.   I therefore have an unconscious need to have all of my “ducks in a row” before embarking on that thousand mile journey. It seems silly now that I see it in writing, as it’s impossible to be fully prepared for a challenge. If I wait until I feel fully prepared, I will never take that first step.
  • I have a personal commitment to maintaining balance in life.  This is certainly healthy, however it can prohibit me from taking that first step.  I am afraid of overcommitting and feeling overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to negative consequences such as burn out. Lack of balance in my life can also lead to feelings of frustration, inability to act (deer in the headlights), and depression. 

How can the self-knowledge of my subconscious fears help me plough through?  Of course I am not trying to build Rome single-handedly in one day.  If I embark on the small steps and share the journey with a community of travelers, willing to share the load, I can maintain balance. It will also make the journey more FUN!

Others that share a stake in the outcome of a challenge also proceed into the journey with their own “Big Assumptions.”  Understanding that others are also hard-wired with fears and competing commitments enables you to better support them in their journey, just as they support you.  By actively listening, a diverse group sharing a common goal can work together to understand one another’s vulnerabilities and provide a more supportive and “safe” environment.

An example of this concept in action might be a situation where you invite several guests to a party who do not know anyone else at the party.  It would be important to help these guests feel at home by learning about them, introducing them to other guests that share commonalities and checking back to ensure that these guests feel comfortable and are enjoying themselves. It seems simple, however when the concept applies to big challenges, we are often so caught up in the end game that we forget that there are little steps and a community that come first.

Establishing supportive partnerships between community members (just like when you connect those folks at your party) is a great way to build a solid working community.  It’s being present in the dialog, respectively listening, asking for clarification and supporting one another's thought process. By asking questions that can support progress you can lend support of the individual community members.  

When we look at the enormous challenges ahead of us as we search for ways to mitigate climate change and adapt to these changes, that inside job seems insignificant. Self-examination reveals that change begins as an inside job; know thyself!


Unknown said...

I wanted to share a few thoughts. I could not agree with you more about the centric part that knowing ourselves plays on becoming an agent of change. I believe that in one way or another, the goal of your project is to raise awareness for individuals to go through their own processes and with it reduce their carbon footprint. It won’t be the same for everybody and the goals need to be very personalized. I understand how overwhelming the knowledge of the magnitude of the issue of climate change can be; however, that is the beauty of your program. You are addressing individuals and their own sphere of influence. If you help your “community” to keep this is mind and focus, you might be able to avoid the potential feeling of hopelessness. At the same time you might find a lot of success stories because suddenly the mountain won’t be as high to climb.
The need to maintain life balance and feeling in control is something that I can completely relate to. When you talk about having all the ducks in a row to meet your own expectations, it seems that you are gathering gear for a much bigger mountain than needed. As much as we would like to know it all, it is understandable to not be an expert on everything. So, if you do not know it, reach out to those who might and/or just admit that you do not know. From my own experience I find that people are more receptive to a simple “I do not know but I will look into it” than to those that make broad statements or assertions just to avoid saying that they do not know. At the end of the day is about people and their own transformations. Perhaps, that is exactly what you should use as you most powerful tool -- Your own awakening. It makes you relatable, keeps you honest and leaves the window open for others to go through their own process.
As you mentioned, establishing supportive partnerships will make your project stronger. It will definitely help you address your personal roadblocks, since their knowledge and time will take part of the responsibility from your shoulders. Do you have specific community members in mind? Or even some family members?

Thanks for sharing.

Erica Ocampo

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
quentingilly said...

Hi Bonnie,

I really like where you are going with your ideas. I think you and I both share a lot of similarities when it comes to our views on sustainability and what it means to us as an individual. Yes, we can all be "sustainable" by recycling or conserving water or electricity, but can we take it further and say that we want our physical and mental being to also reflect the idea of sustainability. I agree that burnout in anything can lead to disastrous results, which is why I also agree with your thoughts on over committing. Over committing, regardless of your intentions will just draw back on your potential in those other qualities that are required to create and maintain a truly sustainable lifestyle. I also am like you when you say you are a self starter, organized, etc. When I want to tackle something I go for it; but, by focusing my mind on sustainability, it has allowed me to change my perspective from focusing on one particular thing, to focusing on everything a little. Over committing leads to disastrous consequences regardless of if you fulfill those commitments or not.
One thing I would say is that you may consider trying to weave in a little flexibility into your program. Assuming people are going to come with many different ideas on what sustainability actually is, a program like this might consider different "levels" of commitment. Just like with substance abuse, people have different opinions of what "drug free" is. One person can say they are drug free because they have kicked heroin, but they still drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, while another person might consider "drug free" as no smoking or alcohol, or aspirin, and only organic foods! These words "sustainability" and "addiction" are open for interpretation. I would invite you to embrace the differences in opinion, and you might be able to engage more people to stick with the program.

I love your project and look forward to hearing more!


quentingilly said...

Hi Bonnie,

I really like your ideas on what sustainability really means to you. It is important because I share a lot of the same ideas. I think sustainability goes far beyond what we do to recycle or save energy. We must maintain balance in our lives to reflect the balance that comes with the idea of sustainability. Over committing, regardless of if you fulfill all of those commitments leads to disastrous consequences.

One thing I would invite you to do is think about the different opinions of carbon addition and sustainability that people committing to your program will have. Everybody has a different opinion when it comes to these things. "sustainability" and "addiction" are words that are open for interpretation. I invite you to embrace those different interpretations.